Letter: Agency busy helping voters

I wanted to respond to a letter recently printed in your newspaper. In it, Mrs. Jean McManus offered the idea of mailing a sample ballot to each registered voter in the state in an effort to remind them of upcoming elections. I fervently share Mrs. McManus’ interest in increasing voter participation and believe that as individuals, voting is one of the most important responsibilities we have in our democracy. Our state’s robust voter registration statistics prove that anyone who wants the opportunity to vote has the opportunity to vote. It is a personal choice, an individual right and an expression of one’s priorities.

During my tenure as secretary of state, I have worked very hard to not only increase our state’s registration statistics, but also improve our turnout on Election Day. Just last year, after traveling to the Middle East in support of our American soldiers serving overseas, I developed a program called Honor Vets — Vote. This effort was directly in response to Louisiana’s historically dismal turnout. I believe we should recognize those who have fought and sacrificed for our right to vote by participating on Election Day and casting a ballot in their honor. The “Honor Vets —Vote” program allows individuals wishing to dedicate their vote to a current or former member of the military to complete a simple form at www.sos.la.gov/honorvets, then receive a bumper sticker, lapel pin and/or a printable certificate documenting their dedication. It’s a simple act, but one that has been well received.

That said, let me directly respond to the suggested idea of mailing sample ballots to every voter. Unfortunately, with 2.9 million registered voters in our state, the return on investment would be cost prohibitive given our limited resources. We have however, launched an app for mobile smartphones called GeauxVote, which has proven to be an invaluable tool. The app allows voters to sign up for text message reminders, access their registration information, review a personalized sample ballot, find their polling location including turn-by-turn directions and get real-time election results. I certainly understand that everyone is not technology savvy, but for a large portion of today’s voters, it is how they get their information. In fact, during the presidential election the GeauxVote app and mobile website received 1.9 million hits from approximately 31,800 unique visitors. The GeauxVote app was the first of its kind in the nation and recently won the IDEAS Award from the National Association of Secretaries of State.

I am heartened that residents such as Mrs. McManus take the time to write to The Advocate with their ideas and suggestions for improving voter turnout and I wanted her to know, I’m listening.

Tom Schedler

Louisiana secretary of state

Baton Rouge